Iran may be willing to hold direct talks with the United States about its nuclear program, but only if the meeting is approved by the country's foreign minister, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
As sanctions over Iran's nuclear program stifle the economy, Ali Akbar Salehi's comments Monday signal the first sign Tehran may seek a diplomatic path with Washington.
"Comprehensive political talks are within the powers of the exalted supreme leader," Salehi said in comments published by the official IRNA news agency.
Tehran cooperated with Washington in the early days following the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, but relations reached a new stumbling point after former President George W. Bush branded it part of the "Axis of Evil."
"Until now, talks have been held with the U.S. on specific subjects such as Afghanistan and Iraq," Salehi said.
"But as for the idea of comprehensive political talks being raised in public debate - this issue is within the powers of the exalted supreme leader. His excellency decides whether this should be done or not."
The two countries are party to six-nation talks over Tehran's controversial nuclear program which are currently stalled.
In recent weeks, the U.S. has indicated that it's willing to hold direct bilateral talks with Iran after deepening concerns in the West that the Islamic Republic is close to reaching enriched uranium levels that could be used to produce a nuclear weapon.
The U.S. cut diplomatic ties with Iran after militant students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran to protest Washington's support for deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi following the country's 1979 revolution.
The revolution toppled the pro-U.S. leader and led to an Islamic clerical government.